Showing posts with label sake. Show all posts
Showing posts with label sake. Show all posts

Thursday, November 21, 2019

Tasting Hakkaisan Sake at Faith and Flower

A while back I went to a dinner at Faith and Flower hosted by Hakkaisan sake to try their lineup. Hakkaisan is a brewery in Niigata Prefecture, at the bottom of Mount Hakkaisan, a sacred mountain with a name that means "eight peaked mountain".
We started with the Hakkaisan "AWA" sparkling sake. Awa means "bubbles" in Japanese, and the sparkling sake here is produced using secondary fermentation in the bottle, similar to the traditional champagne method. It's a very clean tasting sparkling sake, with just a touch of sweetness.
Hakkaisan at Faith and Flower

For the Awa, they paired with a silken tofu mousse, fresh wasabi and miyoga ginger, bonito dashi
Hakkaisan at Faith and Flower
We loved the texture of this tofu mousse.

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Roku Sunset, IDG's Newest Flagship Restaurant in West Hollywood

by Bryan Tsunoda @btsunoda

West Hollywood or “WeHo” has become an interesting intersection for me. More of my co-workers select WeHo as their place to call home. In addition, I have been receiving way more invites to dine at WeHo restaurants. I was fortunate to be invited to one of the hottest restaurants, Roku Sunset.

Due to the large front windows, the interior is full of natural light. Combined with the fact that their is spacious seating available, Roku Sunset is extremely welcoming. It’s certainly bodes well for someone trying to impress their date.

I typically lean towards sake when I eat Japanese seafood. After perusing the drink list, I decided it was only fitting to start with a sake flight. After all, it was an easy way to sample different types of sake.

The traditional sake sampler consisted of three premium samples: Ken Sword Daiginjo, Yuki No Bosha, and Shichi Hon Yari. The Ken Sword Daiginjo was probably the driest of the group. The Yuki No Bosha was fruity and had notes of banana and strawberries. The Shichi Hon Yari was the most interesting as it was very rustic and earthy.

I began my meal with the bluefin tuna.
 It was combined with diced avocados, tomatoes, shaved parmesan and shaved truffles. I was initially skeptical about mixing bluefin with parmesan, but overall the combination of flavors worked very well.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Sake Pairing Dinner at Sake Institute of America and Japon Bistro (Pasadena)

After my first sake tasting and pairing with Master Sake Sommelier Yuji Matsumoto, I was sold. That's why I happily obliged to attend another pairing. That night I also heard the great news that he and his friend at Japon Bistro had started Sake Institute of America with a sake store inside Japon Bistro. Did I mention Japon Bistro is within walking distance from my apartment? Double score.
Sake Pairing Dinner at Japon Bistro

Mizbasho Sparkling SakeA toast to start the night with Mizbasho sparkling sake from Gunma, which is supposedly the only sparkling sake produced per the standards of French champagne production. It's more full-bodied than champagne. A little sweetness here, a little sourness there.

With this sake pairing dinner we had the chance to taste sake with food other than sushi, but of course, we all started with some sashimi.

Early summer assorted sashimi paired with Dassai 50 Junmai Daiginjo (Yamaguchi)

The most interesting part was seeing how the different sashimi interacts with the sake. The Aji brought out the floral aromas while the hotate (scallops) made it more subtle. It works the other way as well, the restrained Dassai made the saba (mackerel) less salty, sweeter.
I've been a big Dassai proponent since the last tasting. Dassai sake is made by the Asahi Shuzo brewery in Honshu, which only makes junmai daiginjo sake.
The number 50 refers to how much the rice has been polished, in this case to 50% of its original size.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Sashi Sushi+Sake Lounge, Manhattan Beach

When I was invited to a dinner at Sashi in Manhattan Beach (extended thanks to Glutster), the name Makoto Okuwa was somehow familiar to me. Upon hearing that he worked under Iron Chef Morimoto and was also among his crew in the TV show, I finally remembered seeing him in a cook-off against Top Chef contestant Betty Fraser at the LA Mag Food Event back in 2008.

Chef Makoto Okuwa grew up in Nagoya and eventually moved to New York where he worked under Iron Chef Masaharu Morimoto. Now he has his own place in Manhattan Beach: Sashi.
After Mattatouille, Glutster and I lounged on the chilly beach for a while and reminiscing about our Bali trip(the last time we were all at a beach!), a family-style tasting menu at Sashi began. We were joined by Pardon My Crumbs, Kevin Eats, Sushi Lush, and Active Foodie. We had so many dishes I will not be able to go through them all here, so I will just give you about the top 80% of what we ate that night.

We all love to start with some bubbles. Luckily even for this japanese food/sake dinner we can still get our bubblies with the "Flower Sparkling" Hana Hou Hou Shu. A bit sweeter than champagne, but otherwise crisp and easily drinkable. I, for one, appreciated having a sparkling to start.

For the amuse bouche: "New England Clam Chowder"
A playful rendition of the classic clam chowder using a small air bread (a la The Bazaar) infused with the chowder and topped with manila clams and some truffle oil. It's a nice introduction to Chef Makoto Okuwa.

Crispy asparagus (lightly beer battered tempura asparagus served with nori aioli) -$7
A simple dish, but we all liked this. The light batter did not hide the texture and flavor of the fresh asparagus.

Lemon oregano mushroom (char grilled shitake mushroom with oregano pesto) -$8
Whether such a strongly flavored dish is a good appetizer before all the oysters and sashimi I'm not sure, but that aside I love both shiitake and pesto and while I never thought of the combination of the two I decided I loved it.

Kumamoto oysters (half dozen) - $18
Each of the fresh oyster was dressed differently.

Sashimi wrap (butter lettuce, asian herbs, gochujang sauce, wasabi soy, and miso aioli. Choice of 5 fresh fish) -$26
For us the 5 fish were: salmon, aoyagi, hamachi, tai, and tuna.
They serve very high quality sashimi here at Sashi. The lettuce wrap is supposed to be a nod to the Korean ssam wraps and surprisingly I did like the sashimi with the gojuchang sauce and the lettuce wrap, although I think I still prefer soy sauce and wasabi.

Gindara (alaskan wild black cod marinated in sweet miso) - $5 (per skewer)
This robata take on the famous Nobu dish had a slight smokiness and nicely charred crispy bits around the edges. The rest is sweet and fall-apart tender.

Steam bun (roasted kurobuta pork belly, pickled cucumber, kewpie slaw, scallion) -$13
A fatty pork bun that was made even richer by the kewpie mayo (and I'm all about kewpie mayo). A pretty good rendition of pork steam bun that is somewhat of a combination between Momofuku's and Ippudo's. The bun is a bit thick here but overall still good.

Toro tartar with caviar (chopped medium fatty tuna served in soy dashi broth with freshly grated wasabi and paddlefish caviar) -$28
Toro with caviar? How indulgently exciting. The tartar had a good texture but the flavor was dominated mainly by the scallions. Since it was colder than I think it should've been, I couldn't taste the toro as much as I would've liked.

Black tiger prawn tempura (tempura battered black tiger prawns mixed in wasabi aioli sauce served on a baby frisee salad) -$16
For the Chinese in the group, this is probably reminiscent of the walnut shrimp minus the walnut. In any case, you can't go wrong with crunchy battered fresh shrimp in aioli.

Tai with uni (thinly sliced japanese snapper topped with sweet sea urchin, yuzukosho and shiso salad) -$18
An interesting combination of two from opposite ends of the spectrum: the lean tai with the creamy uni. (though, it left me wanting more uni. I can use a whole uni for myself.)

King crab claws "corn dogs" (lemon thyme, sea salt and served with a lemon grass dipping sauce) -$17
An interesting dish and while I liked both the batter and the crab meat, I still prefer my crab prepared simply roasted or boiled. I do believe frying dries it up a bit.

Wagyu "hot rock" (thinly sliced japanese wagyu beef prepared "table side") -$28
These Japanese wagyu slices come with a certificate of authenticity. These amazing slices of meat are yours to cook yourself tableside. There's no way to screw this up, delicious all the way.

Tuna sashimi pizza (tuna carpaccio, cilantro, cherry tomato, red onion, black olives and jalapeno) -$14
Besides this we also had a chicken teriyaki pizza ($15). Both were fine but I can't get that excited about pizzas at a Japanese restaurant.

Even though we were all stuffed at this point, most of us opted to try out one of Makoto's unique Nagoya-rooted offerings:
20: taiwan ramen noodle (nagoya style spicy noodle soup served with beef and pork, asian chives, and dried red chili) -$11
OK so we were expecting a small tasting-size bowl, not a full-sized portion, but regardless this ramen turned out to be the night's favorite for many. And, yes sir, it was quite spicy.

We finished with desserts by pastry chef Kei Hasegawa (formerly from Nobu).
Bamboo cup (chocolate orange mousse, cinnamon crumble, green tea ice cream, cointreau foam) -$8
Though you can't tell from this photo, the bamboo cup held layers of the mousse, the ice cream, etc. This had a nice light tartness to it.

Japanese frozen yogurt (calpico flavor yogurt and mango passion fruit sorbet served with fresh berries) - $8
This was also light and tart but I found that the tartness overwhelmed the berries too much for my taste.

Toban yaki (bananas, pineapple, and fuji apples baked in a toban pot served with a passion fruit white chocolate sauce and coconut ice cream) -$16
Easily my favorite dessert. These fruits cooked in the creamy passionfruit chocolate sauce were the perfect ending for that chilly night for me.

Perhaps my initial expectation was biased by the fact that I was in Manhattan Beach (though I recently had some pretty good eats there), but I was happily surprised by Chef Makoto Okuwa's food. Most of the dishes are variations of familiar and popular fusion dishes, but they were well executed and he has sourced good quality ingredients. Though it would be great to see more of the chef's own personal flair on the menu as he demonstrated with the amuse bouche, Sashi provides a solid meal. And a bowl of that taiwan ramen noodle would do one well after a cool night on the beach.

Sashi: sushi+sake lounge
451 Manhattan Beach Blvd
Manhattan Beach, CA 90266
(310) 545-0400
Sashi: sushi and sake lounge on Urbanspoon
Sashi Sushi + Sake Lounge in Los Angeles

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Dassai Sake Pairing at Sushi Central.

Hamachi sushi paired with Dassai 23 was a revelation.

Dassai 23

For this pairing we owe master sake sommelier Yuji Matsumoto.

Yuji-san invited us to a sake and sushi pairing dinner was held at Sushi Central, a strip-mall spot in Palms. This pairing featured Dassai sake from Asahi Shuzo brewery in Honshu, which only makes junmai daiginjo sake.

I haven't heard of this place until I received the invitation from Yuji-san although now I wondered why that is. Our conversation revealed that the sushi chef, Phillip Yi, was formerly director and instructor of the California Sushi Academy.

"Wait, the one in the Trevor Corson book? The Zen of Fish?"
"Yes. He interviewed my wife for that book, she was one of the first female sushi chefs."

I've read and own this book. How did I miss this place?

Sushi Central also has no alcohol license. You know what that means. Yep, BYOB. Throughout our dinner, local regulars fill the small place and taking out various bottles/cans from a brown bag. Mostly beers and that lovely Charles Shaw two-buck-chucks (I urge you not to ... bring some good stuff instead, this sushi is worth it).

While we were waiting for someone to bring the sake, we got to try some ono sushi - somewhat considered a "signature" dish here at Sushi Central and what his regulars affectionately call the "crack sushi." This ono sushi was also the subject of a Bobby Flay throwdown episode.
Amazing. The ono was meaty and had a light smoky flavor. Yi served very well-prepared sushi with a nice ratio of fish:rice.

Soon our bottles of sake was delivered. The man we need to thank for this was Kazuhiro Sakurai from the Dassai factory in Japan who flew in for three days. He probably didn't fly just to meet us, but we felt special all the same.

"Dassai 23." What does the "23" refer to? I know what rum "151" refers to, but nope. Not it. The numbers on sake bottles actually refer to how fine the rice has been polished. The junmai dai ginjo sake type is the finest and has to be polished at least 50% or lower. Dassai only makes dai ginjo sake.
Not sure you can really tell from that photo but there is visible difference in size between the three samples. Dassai "23" means that the rice has been polished until it only retains 23% of its original size. It also takes 3 days and 3 nights to do this, as opposed to 10 hours to get to 70%.

What happens to that other 77% of the rice? Who knows ... I should've asked but did I really want to know ... ?

Yuji san started our sushi/sake pairing with the climax: the hamachi and Dassai 23 pairing.
This hamachi is a pretty lean cut.

Upon first tasting the Dassai 23, I noted that it smells very fruity. It had a clean, crisp and smooth taste with hints of lychee - perhaps pineapple.

With the yellowtail? The sake transformed into a "rounder", smoother sake. This pairing really brought out the sake.

As we move on to some fattier cuts of fish, we also move on to richer sake.
The salmon belly was paired with the Dassai 50. The sake was richer and had a fuller body than the 23. This was heavier while the 23 had a much cleaner taste. Paired with the salmon belly ,the sake developed a fruitier and mellower taste.

Next we had some house-cured saba (mackerel) with yuzu.
The saba is not a common sushi as it had the reputation of being too salty and fishy. The house-cured version at Sushi Central is a little salty, but not overpowering. It was tender and had a great texture. This was paired with the Dassai 39 (polished to 39%) which is only available in Japan. Neither the sake nor the fish overpowered each other.

Spicy tuna roll came next, paired with an unfiltered daiginjo sake (Daiginjo Nigori).
The Dassai Daiginjo Nigori is a dryer nigori than what you're probably used to. The fermented smell reminded me of the nanchy drink I had in Tijuana. While the previous pairing focused more on the sake, the nigori sake cuts through the spiciness of the tuna and enhances the flavor of the sushi.

The classic near-end of a sushi meal: kani (crab) roll.
This was a great crab roll. We moved back to the Dassai 50 sake, which worked well with the butteriness of the crab.

We also had an ankimo roll. I enjoyed this as the ponzu sauce isn't as acidic as many - it had a subtler acidity that works nicely with the ankimo without overpowering it.

I've had the Dassai 50 before while dining at Hachi and while I already liked it quite a bit there, this tasting brought me beyond.

On top of that, I discovered a gem of a sushi place.

Thank you Yuji san, chef Phillip Yi, and of course Sakurai san from Dassai for bringing six bottles of sake ;)Sake sommelier Yuji Matsumoto and Chef Phillip Yi of Sushi Central

PS. Chef Phillip Yi also holds a sushi class every last Sunday of the month.
Yuji Matsumoto will be giving a seminar during the LA Sake Festival on March 27. He's also planning a sake/cheese tasting event, so stay tuned.

Read Shop Eat Sleep's post here and e*starLA's post here.

Sushi Central
3500 Overland ave. #100
Los Angeles, CA 90034
(310) 202-6866
Sushi Central on Urbanspoon
Sushi Central in Los Angeles

Disclaimer: This meal was hosted and the sake provided by Dassai.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Kabuki: Sake, Sushi, Hollywood.

When a media invite came from Kabuki Hollywood came in my mailbox, I had doubts. It wasn't their fault because I had never been, but because my last experience at a popular/hip sushi place in Hollywood involved a bone in my toro (*cough* geisha house *cough*). But the desire to meet their sake master sommelier Yuji Matsumoto outweighed any reservation, and so I went.

Despite the swank interior, Kabuki's price point is actually cheap, especially considering it's a sushi joint in the Hollywood/Vine area (their rolls start at $3.95).

Photo courtesy of Kabuki Hollywood

Kabuki's sake list isn't extensive but had something for everyone. For our meal Yuji Matsumoto prepared three types of chilled sake.
We started with the lightest body sake (from right to left): Kikusui 'Junmai Ginjo' Niigata, Mizbasho Ginjo Gunma, Nanbu Bijin 'Tokubetsu Junmai' Iwate.
I loved loved the Nanbu Bijin, which probably meant I like heavier body sake. Or maybe that the Nanbu Bijin is just awesome.

Our meal started with their five new dishes which have been around in Kabuki in Las Vegas and Arizona but are new to the LA locations.

I was happily surprised to see a plate of ahi poke as the first of these new dishes.
This Hawaiian dish is somewhat hard to find in Los Angeles, especially among not-so-fresh version at Whole Foods and not-quite-the-poke-I-remember versions at various places around town, but Kabuki's version is fragrant with the sesame oil and seeds, complemented well by the wakame and is actually quite like what I remembered from Honolulu.

The yellowtail carpaccio is a rendition of Nobu's original yellowtail carpaccio, but at probably half the price (although with thinner slices of fish).
The jalapeno slices make the dish. Don't eat a slice of fish without a jalapeno.

Because some of the new dishes came out of the Midwest location, we see major influence from the Mexican cuisine in their new Baja Roll.
California roll topped with spicy sauce and salsa, pretty interesting.

They also had lasagna sushi: california roll topped with melted cheese. Some of you will probably balk at the notion of cheese on top of sushi, but seeing that cream cheese in sushi like Philadelphia rolls had become so mainstream, I guess why not cheese?

After trying out their new items, we got some nigiri sushi, including some toro.
I actually thought the pieces of fish themselves were not bad at all, they are pretty fresh, good quality fish for the price. What's lacking for me was their rice, though. Too dense, too cold, too hard for my taste. Although not every piece had cold rice, I did get a couple of the inconsistently cold ones, if I had to do over I'd probably order the sashimi platter like another blogger did.
The sashimi comes with a special condiment that I actually really liked and thought as quite unique: chopped wasabi stems. This has a nice texture and fragrance to it on top of the kick.

For my main entree I got one of their signature dishes, the Koshou Beef
A bit overcooked and so the beef was a bit tough, but the flavors were good.

Kabuki has won awards for their Kid's menu, and their choices of kids' sushi, teriyaki, bbq ribs, or tempura are printed on a fun playbook that teaches them about sushi and sea creatures. I dare say it's healthier than the chicken nuggets on my kid's menu. Oh, and they get Calpico soda, too.
Photo from Kabuki Hollywood

As you can imagine, Kabuki has a much more extensive dessert menu than most Japanese restaurants. Between the almost-dozen of us there, we tried pretty much a bit of all of them from the Chocolate Pyramid Anglaise that has more of the consistency of ice cream, to the "Freddo" which is pretty much a bowl of asian shaved ice with all the usual toppings - can't go wrong with that.

My favorite dessert was the coconut sorbet in the shell, complete with bits of coconut inside.

With their low price point, it's easy to see Kabuki as the better dining options in that area (in fact, the place was pretty busy for a rainy weeknight) and I was pretty happy with the quality of the food we got for what it was. Granted I haven't really eaten sushi rolls in years (except for that time I was stuck in Los Alamos for 2 weeks and ate a sushi roll with green chile - new menu idea for Kabuki?) but I certainly know people whose idea of a sushi meal equals creative, westernized rolls. They do have pretty good fish on hand, if they work on their rice a bit they can be much better.

1545 Vine St
Los Angeles, CA 90028
(323) 464-6003
Kabuki Japanese on Urbanspoon
Kabuki Japanese Restaurant in Los Angeles

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